Former University at Albany President Karen Hitchcock, a longtime WAMC commentator and the former host of "The Best Of Our Knowledge," has died after an illness. UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez made the announcement in an email to the campus community Wednesday morning.
A special advisor at Park Strategies, Hitchcock was named the 16th and first female president of UAlbany in 1996, leaving for Canada in 2004 to head Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. After that, it was a return home to Albany.
Hitchcock said her UAlbany presidency was "a wonderful opportunity."
"To be the first female president was a great honor. I was always so impressed with the ability of the community both within and without the university to look at what someone's credentials and what their vision might be for the university before other considerations. So, it was a challenging time, but a very exciting time, and one filled with the opportunity to make wonderful connections, if you will, for the university."
Hitchcock also served as chair of the Business Higher Education Roundtable.
"As I looked at what the needs of the university were, but also all universities across the United States, the need to relate more closely to the community that supported each university, was very important. The need for relevance was very important. So we needed to have a very close dialog with the people that we served. And that was certainly, of course, our students, but also the community, the businesses, the organizations that with the university were looking to enhance the economic growth and vitality fo the region. So we put toegther a group of university presidents as well as CEOs of many of our businesses in the region, so we could sit down and have good dialog about what needs were, where universities could play a part to helping to meet those needs, be it in workforce development or particular research programs, and businesses could appreciate the challenges being faced by higher education during those times. So it was a very fruitful, very rewarding set of relationships, which persist to this day."
Hitchcock has served on many boards in the Capital Region, and co-hosted "The Best Of Our Knowledge."
"Oh that was a wonderful experience, and I'll always be grateful to our leader, Alan Chartock, for making that happen. It was a wonderful time because it enabled us to address a lot of the issues facing higher education in a format that allowed for input from the community as far as what kinds of things they wanted to hear. I also had the experience of taking that on the road and we broadcast that from Canada when I was principal of Queens University in Ontario. That was wonderful. We were able to interview everyone from the main Canadian astronaut to someone who has since won the Nobel Prize. So it was a wondeful experience as I said to be able to broadcast that thanks to wonderful technology and the willingness of WAMC to new environs and new people."
Hitchcock earned her degree in biology from St. Lawrence and her Ph.D. in anatomy from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Hitchcock's research career in cell and developmental biology happened during her years as a faculty member at Tufts University and as a faculty member and academic leader at Texas Tech and the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Here is the text of the letter Rodriguez sent to the campus community Wednesday:
This morning I received the very sad news that former UAlbany president Karen Hitchcock has passed away after a lengthy illness. Dr. Hitchcock was a trailblazer throughout her career in higher education, and the University at Albany and the Capital Region are stronger and more vibrant thanks to her significant professional and philanthropic contributions to so many of our most cherished community organizations. The entire UAlbany community extends its deepest condolences to Karen’s family and friends.
First as provost and then as our 16th president, she presided over academic and research expansions that were instrumental to solidifying UAlbany’s position today as one of the nation’s most diverse public research universities, including the development of our Health Sciences Campus into the region’s premier health sciences cluster.
Dr. Hitchcock also believed our region is stronger when its institutions work together to achieve common goals. It was in that spirit that she helped found the Business-Higher Education Roundtable to create academic-industry partnerships that drive economic growth. As part of her deep community engagement, she was a stalwart supporter of UAlbany’s internationally acclaimed New York State Writers Institute. For these and many other important contributions, Dr. Hitchcock was honored as the Academic Laureate at the University at Albany Foundation's 2018 Citizen Laureate Awards.
For Karen’s commitment to our University, to our students, and to our region, we will be forever grateful, and she will be deeply missed.